"The News Urinal" is a novel that is part the novel "The Shipping News" and part Ron Howard directed movie, "The Paper", with a little " TV's "Lou Grant" as well. Those works as well as his own experience as a journalist and staffer at many newspapers has inspired author Richard R. Sitler in the writing of this riveting tale of a newspaper staff trying to keep it together in the face of the growing challenges in the newspaper world of the 1990's.
During that decade rising cost of newsprint and other operation expenses threatened the future of many newspapers. Many formerly privately-owned papers were snapped up by big corporations who could handle the expenses and reap the rewards of an industry that still had a corner on the news market. However these corporations did not plan for the future when the internet would challenge this dominance in the market. Corporations pushed newspapers to focus more on entertainment and marketing and less on journalism.
Many markets that formerly had two papers saw the closure or merger of papers leaving them with just one print news source. Journalists saw a threat to their livelihood as they tried to balance their integrity with the challenges of the new media landscape.
The staff of the News Journal in a small Ohio city faces these challenges while trying to keep their paper relevant. The story follows the diverse staff including those just starting out their careers and veterans who are hanging on for retirement. There is photojournalist Walker Miller who has several internships under his belt, but has dropped out of journalism school. He is hired for his first full time job as Chief Photographer by the interim editor Nick Forrest, an idealistic, ambitious, young journalist. They replace outgoing editor Andy Dunreith and Dean Sanders who are moving on after being promoted as a result of their award-winning work. Veterans Kent Bowen and Violet Thomas are veteran journalists who provide the younger staff members perspective.
Nick, Walker, Kent, Violet and Jack, and the rest of the Journal News staff work longer hours and not only get a daily paper out six days a week, but they also contend with personal and professional trials and tribulations.